30 for 30: Pub Quiz

30 for 30 – as I reach my fourth decade of being, I’m writing about some of the things that made the three that came before what they were. 30 – mostly trivial – things that have been a part of 30 – mostly trivial – years.

25. PUB QUIZ
 

Newtown Town Hall - venue of many Pub Quizes

I love being part of a pub quiz

What isnit about Pub Quizzes that attracts a certain type of person?

When you look at it, coldly and from a distance, it is a strange thing. A man* asks you questions about obscure stuff. What is it supposed to be a test of?

Yet, you see all sorts there. To take a little step towards sexism, it is usually men (yes, I’ve been to pub quizzes with women, but it is predominantly men, and men get most excited about it). Trivia, I think, is a particularly male pursuit – and I’ve yet to read anyone discuss why.

For reasons best left alone, I used to have a subscription to Zoo magazine. The last page was always a Fact Page. Did-you-knows?, facts and figures, etc. One I learnt that I still remember is:

If a daughter is taller than her father, it’s actually considered a physical deformity.

(I’m not sure how accurate the Zoo magazine Fact Page is, but I’ve yet to meet a girl that is taller than her father.)

Men love facts. Yet – I don’t go to pub quizes to learn. I go to test what I’ve learnt.

Do I learn just to be tested? That’s the question. Do I plough throw my music reading, absorbing all I can, just so I can be tested? The only time that stuff really comes into use is at a pub quiz.

But I don’t read those articles thinking, BAM, locking it away for a future music pub quiz.

Maybe the bigger angle is the test. I naturally love trivia – and here’s my chance to see how much.

Lond ones were hard. We had a great team for a while. Jay covered sport and all things dude. Dan Ryan also helped with sport but was great with news and current events. Me – I had music, TV and film. Daniel Hampton backed me up on those topics and was a great all-rounder.

Best of all though was our approach. We were all on the same page.

What British city had a mechanical spider walk through it’s streets?

We talked it through and decided the best guess as Liverpool, that year’s British city of culture. But it was the way we worked it – with cold logic. And we were right. We were ego-less as well. No one argued an answer just because it was their’s.

The problem then? We needed a token British. “Apparently” easy questions like:

In 2005, what was voted on the BBC as Britain’s favourite children’s animal?

Highlight for the answer (Bagpuss. What the hell is a Bagpuss?)

What city with the postcode SY is in Shropshire?

(Shewsbury. What the hell is Shewsbury?)

We had a series of ring-ins – thank you Feds, Stewey, etc – but we never did find that magic guy. We came 2nd or 3rd consistently, often just one or two questions behind. It was frustrating.

That is the other part of it – the deduction.

What band name is the anagram of Acre Fay Forty?

(Fear Factory)

What comes next in this list?

WH PT JP TB PD CB SM PM CE DT

(MS – Matt Smith, the initials of the the Doctors in Doctor Who in order)

Another defeat for the ‘test of knowledge’ theory. This is deduction. We are pocket Sherlock Holmes’s. And I hated tests in school. Yet I happily put myself through this stuff.

Why??

Sydney was great for Pub Quiz. So many places, so many pubs. Beating the members of Gomez at the Annandale at age 20. The Quizmaster – BT – mockingly derided us with a barbed “must have written too many young people questions.” Then there were mammoth nights at the town Hall hotel, including one where Barry and I drunk our winnings in one night.

Industrys quizes are quite something too. I was once at a quiz team with Billy Brimingham, the Twelth Man himself.

I am – let’s face it – pretty good. Not only do I love facts, I love the drama and the rigmarole. At a new quiz, I love finding out the tyoes of rounds. A lyrics round, anyone?

It’s almost hilarious then when Jay and I were in France (with Dutchie and Nat in tow) doing a pub quiz – a really easy one. It was a tourist crowd, so it had to be. But God, we barely got a question wrong. We almost doubled the next team. We were hopelessly drunk and arrogant too. People must have hated those loud, obnoxious drunks at that table. The fact we won must have ruined some nights.

I got my own back in Boston though, playing against a Harvard crowd. Aftar an almost flawless first round (including identifying the band Red Rider – Tom “Life is A Highway” Cochrane’s band), we died quickly and the night got less fun. There was a maths round. And the name-the-author round was mostly non English books.

Let’s go do a pub quiz one day. I love them. I don’t see that stopping. And lately I have been looking at the theatre of it.

What is it about us, as men in particular, that are drawn to it? Maybe by the time I get to 40 for 40, I can propose some findings.

* I have never, ever, had a female Quizmaster.

30 for 30: Chess

30 for 30 – as I reach my fourth decade of being, I’m writing about some of the things that made the three that came before what they were. 30 – mostly trivial – things that have been a part of 30 – mostly trivial – years.

3. CHESS

The men at the giant chess board in Sydney's Hyde Park

I play chess.

I learnt chess in year 6, from my teacher Mr Creek. He was very good, and could play 6 of us kids at the same time. Sure we were amateurs, but that’s still pretty cool.

After that, I found some books from the library and read further. I picked up some strategies and learnt to read notation. For a while, I was hooked. Yes, I was that Chinese kid who played chess at lunch times. I blame school for encouraging this. And Nirvana were still a year away from kicking everyone’s ass.

I don’t really play anymore – only the occasional game with a friend. In my early 20s I flirted with online chess. Macs come with chess so sometimes I play chess as I’m watching some movie that I’m forcing myself to sit through.

I’m also nowhere near as good as I used to be. It’s that thinking-5-steps-ahead thing. It’s hard to think about one thing over and over in this era of information overload.

You see, here’s the thing I like about chess.

1) There are rules. Pieces can only move a certain way. There is a finite number of possibilities of what the next move can be. There may be many possibilities, but they are finite.

2) Next, each move leads to MORE possibilities.

3) For me, good chess is about limiting your opponents possibilities. Create places they can’t move. Pin pieces down. My moves should limit your moves.

So it’s almost like a video game. This wave of possibilities coming at you, and getting rid of them, almost like some first person shooter. That’s how I visualise it anyway.

Maybe that’s why I find chess so much more exciting than most people. It’s like a shoot-em-up video game in my mind.

I have a style. I have certain moves and a certain way I like to play.

A find this akin to playing guitar. I can hear some guitar players and think – hey, they play like me. Not that I watch many chess games, but I have a style and I could spot another player’s style as being different to mine.

For example – I will always go for a Queen’s sacrifice. I will take your Queen if it means losing my Queen. Because, I hate the Queen. Too many possibilities – it’s too powerful.

The rest you will find out when you play me.

I love the big chess set in Sydney’s Hyde Park. If you’ve never been, it’s a big public chess board near the fountain in the north end of the park. The pieces are maybe a metre high, and it’s always old men challenging eachother. (There are smaller chess boards nearby)

It’s so close to everything, and you could just sit there with some takeaway after a day of wandering around town. I’ve been to other public chess places – Union Square in NY is one of the more famous. Another cool one in Amsterdam near the start of Vondelpark. I like the vibe of these places. There is something old fashioned about it.

(Who goes to Amsterdam and finds the chess? I do. Loser.)

Nigel used to work for the city council, and was responsible for bringing the giant pieces to the Sydney chessboard every morning, and picking them up at 4:30 in the afternoon. I imagine this dude, with a ute full of chess pieces, driving around the busiest part of Sydney. What happens when the pieces get damaged or stolen? I need ask Nigel that one day.

I wonder if these places are dying out. You don’t see many young people in these places. Mostly old men. And, quite cool, mostly strangers. All they have in common in the game.

Like in most places I guess, Sydney had a bunch of regulars. And they were hilarious. There is one guy – a tall, Dutch looking guy – who was obviously the Cartman of the group. The Regulars would heckle him, and laugh at his bad moves. In a joking way – it was friendly heckling. But taking the piss out of your mates in public – that will never die out.

I tend to think of chess as a thing done in cold countries. I guess most of them, back when I was learning, were Russian with names like Karpov and Kasparov. I guess that’s why Bobby Fischer caused such a storm, being American and becoming world champion.

I played in a band that even had a song about Bobby Fischer. It was one of the most successful songs we had. I read a book about him once – he was a crazy bitter racist.

But chess is everywhere, right? Just in the last couple of years, I’ve seen it played in Lost, West Wing, Frasier, Flashforward etc. There’s Seventh Seal – where the Knight plays chess with Death. And then Bill and Ted ripped it off. There’s that scene in Charlie Wilson’s War where the weapon’s expert plays chess against several people. Or History of the World Part 1, where the King uses real people.

There are many famous chess players as well. Stanley Kubrick. Woody Allen. Bob Dylan. Schwarzenegger. It’s not just dorky young kids with thick glasses. Madonna does it too.

It’s everywhere. Catcher In the Rye. Harry Potter. I see one of those Twilight books has a chess piece on the cover. I know a lot of people who don’t play chess. I wonder why they never learnt? It’s fun – more fun than I’m making it out to be.

I don’t have any desire to see the musical Chess though. That looks shit.

The large Dymocks book store on George St has a basement full of games. Amongst them were chess boards. Some really nice, really expensive ones. I’ve always wanted to buy a proper one. I would walk past them all the time, see the price, then move on!

I have a little magnetic travel chess set. It does the job. Also, most computers come with chess these days, and I’ve even bought a decent chess game for my phone.

I’d like to get a proper one though. One day. And keep it out, all set up. Always in the middle of a game with someone from the other side of the world. Like I’m some sort of James Bond villain.

I just need someone to play with. I guess it’s something to bank when I’m old. I have many good friends who play. Maybe I’ll be writing about chess again when I’m 60.

While My Air Guitar Gently Weeps – The Beatles Rock Band

The Beatles - Rock Band

The Beatles - Rock Band

It’s long been in the works, but this week we got our first glimpse at the Beatles Rock Band video game, at the E3 conference in LA. They are the latest in a long line of bands to have custom branded Guitar Hero or Rock Band games. Significantly, it’s the first time that the Beatles have finally realised it’s no longer 1995.

The trailer (after the jump) blows our mind. We’re not the biggest fan of these type of games, but this one looks great. Unlike AC/DC and Aerosmith, the Beatles were a band where every member shined. You’re not just fighting over the guitar. The graphics, all over the trailer, look great. From the Ed Sullivan show to the Rooftop Concert, they pick the right eras for each song.

The technology has also improved, with this edition of Rock Band the first to support harmonies. The graphics do justice to the band who had such a strong visual image. The song selection, 41 songs in all, is flawless. Best yet, you can buy custom Beatles Rock Band instruments, including Ludwig drums, a Hofner bass and an awesome looking Rickenbacker Guitar.

The Beatles are one of the most merchandise-d bands in the world. There will surely be a lot of people waiting to get their hands on this one, and they will no doubt love it. The game comes out 9th September, the same day as the Beatles reissues.

Links, images and game trailer after the jump.

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Aerosmith – Lotteries and Imposters

Aerosmith - trying to make sense of it all

Aerosmith - trying to make sense of it all

We get pretty excited when we think about Aerosmith. Definitely one of the most decadent bands of all time, they turned it around in the 80s, cleaning up and became one of the biggest rock bands in the world – a promptly stayed there.

It was the first sign that these louts had some balls – and were willing to work hard and take risks for their music and their careers. It led to the groundbreaking ‘Walk This Way’ with Run DMC. We want to shed a tear and do the devil symbol just thinking about it.

The digital era has been funny to Aerosmith, but by no means bad. They signed onto the Guitar Hero franchise well before any other Johnny come lately. They have a new record due out, and rumours are they will follow the Eagles, AC/DC, Guns ‘n’ Roses and others with a retail exclusive (possibly with Wal-Mart).

But two things have really tickled us about Aerosmith lately.

First is the Aerosmith branded lottery scratchie. Yes, really.

The scratchies come with your standard chance of winning a million bucks, but some of the consolation prizes include tickets to shows and backstage passes. All tied in with Aerosmith‘s songs and images. Brilliant!

Full story from Billboard here – http://www.billboard.com/bbcom/news/aerosmith-hits-jackpot-with-branded-lottery-1003972115.story

The second is lead singer Steve Tyler‘s futile attempt to sue anonymous bloggers. Apparently Fake Steve Tyler has gotten around, posting on forums, Facebook and Youtube, talking about Real Steve Tyler‘s private life. So Tyler decided to sue, as is the American way. Funny thing was, the anonymous bloggers decided to stay anonymous and the court day came with no one turning up.

Techcrunch has the best summary we could find – http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/05/22/cryin-aerosmiths-steven-tyler-fails-to-sue-anonymous-bloggers/

This second bit is way more interesting than the lottery story. Fake celebs are everywhere, especially on Twitter. People like Tina Fey and Seth Rogen have to take a hard line to say they are not on Twitter, although you can find fakes of them on that service. Good on Tyler for trying something. Maybe Darth Vader will sue this site.

We bring all this up, not to poke fun at all the crazy things Aerosmith does, but to make a point that it must be confusing to be in a band these days. All these side deals, imposters, new technologies, games, retail exclusives… how can a bunch of rockers from Boston keep up?

The world is getting more and more confusing. We hope Aerosmith keep rocking right through the madness.

Britains Next Top Guitar Hero?

Guitar Hero - stars of stage and screen?

Guitar Hero - stars of stage and screen?

At times, it feels like we have little good things to say about reality TV or guitar hero. But do two wrongs make a right? We might find out soon. Activision, owners of Rock Band, has mentioned an interest in creating a TV show, and maybe even a tour.

OK, so we grant you the quote may well be a flippant comment on behalf of one exec. Still, the mind boggles.

Reality TV we can’t really say much about. But Guitar Hero, and it’s cousin Rockband, are just so interesting at the moment. We like the game. We were complete cynics before we tried it, and we will admit happily that it’s a lot of fun – for a bit. But it’s not a way to listen to music. It’s barely a way to discover new music.

It’s just a dead end.

All this hoopla about Metallica, Aerosmith and others, having exclusive versions of such games, is just over blown. Sure it’s great exposure, but those are some of the biggest rock bands in the world. What works for those nutty bands have never worked for anyone else. KISS coffins, anyone? We’re talking about metal and hard rock here. Most of the hard rock record shops I grew up with had more t-shirts than records. Chains, stickers, and just lots and lots of stuff. It’s cool – we own a lot of that stuff – but that’s where Guitar Hero falls into.

There is also the purist argument. Why not just learn the guitar? We get the flaw in this argument – most people can’t. It’s friggin hard. But in the long run, it’s more rewarding.

Guitar hero is also just keeping it’s head above the credibility waters. We cannot imagine those bands appearing as judges on a show. Unless Guitar Hero are REALLY making a lot of money.

(As an aside, we love the new, free, simple feature in Apple’s Garageband. It comes with free guitar and piano lessons. That warms our slightly snobby, liberal hearts)

So, who knows what TV show Guitar Hero could spawn. It should just be like Don’t Forget the Lyrics. A fun little game show for Joe The Plumber Whose Hobbie Is To Rock Out. But maybe it will be awesome, and I can happily eat my words. The music, at least, is bound to be good. More likely, if this show is ever made, it will last a season. And we will laugh about this like the Super Mario Brothers movie.

Guitar Hero Site